One day in the near future, I’m going to try to cobble together one of my old computers and put it in the kitchen with a monitor. Why, you ask?
When I was in my 20’s, living with my mom and working at a steakhouse in the little mountain area where I grew up, one of my favorite things to do one day off a week was get up nice and early, make a big pan of fried potatoes, and watch the Goonies on my laptop. Occasionally I would watch the Oblongs or Mission Hill, but for the most part it was the Goonies. It became a weekly ritual, and to be honest there’s something exceptionally comforting about that.
I really enjoy cooking, and I find that it’s even more enjoyable when I have good music to listen to or something entertaining to watch. That’s actually how my last mp3 player died: I was rinsing off something in the sink and some water splashed into one of the ports while the thing was in my pocket.
I don’t actually have the day off today, but it’s early enough and I’ve got to wait on a plumber who may or may not be arriving today. So in the spirit of comfort ritual, I think it’s a great time for a little blog segment. Dinner and show, if you will. Or dinnema, if you prefer. No wait, that sounds gross. The Cook’s Couch. Sure. We’ll go with that for now.
So here’s how this works. There is food, and there is entertainment, working together in harmony. Delicious, delicious harmony. Theoretically, the idea is to start watching when you start prepping to cook, and finish at some point during or after the meal. Now, I understand not everyone has quite the same capacity for multitasking around knives and fire, so there’s some obvious allowances for safety.
So let’s get to it. Today’s food is a modification of a traditional “bolognese” over pasta. One of the first things my father taught me to cook was spaghetti with meat sauce. We used canned tomato sauce and tomato paste, ground beef, and the usual medley of garlic and onions and mushrooms and what have you. This sauce, however, is not that sauce.
Fascinated as I am by cooking and food and all things delicious, I poked around on the internet to see what kinds of variations and traditional sauces there were out there, and I came to two things that shook the foundation of everything I know…
The first: You don’t eat spaghetti with bolognese. It’s kind of wrong. At least it’s wrong to the Italians. It’s terribly popular everywhere else, but it’s not really what it’s there for. And for good reason. Thin round pasta is worthless at actually sticking to the meat sauce, especially if it’s done right. That’s why I stopped using spaghetti years ago, but it’s always nice to see that I’m right.
The second: Bolognese is not a tomato-based sauce. It has tomatos in it, but the popular American convention of putting meat and marinara together and calling it bolognese is just plain wrong.
So, taken aback by my own ignorance of what I thought was a favorite food, I immediately had to make a “traditional” bolognese, just to see.
OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD. The first few bites I kind of missed the extra tomatoes, but by the time I’d finished the first bowl, I knew I’d probably never go back.
is the recipe that I followed, if you want to see it in it’s original form. And this
amazing blog has a copy of the official recipe as decided upon by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982.
Today’s entertainment will be….The Venture Brothers. Because this is a home-made sauce, there’s a very long simmer time. Hours long, in fact.
This makes it a perfect recipe for a snowy/rainy day on the couch with some wine or some…tea. Yeah, tea. Pick a season, any season, and turn that shit on.
Now, allow me to provide a quick list of the things you’ll need.
Butter or olive oil – I use butter, personally. Don’t use Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it has little particles that will burn.
MEAT!!! I have beef of the ground variety, though minced or chopped will do. Can also be supplemented with pancetta or pork or veal or whatever.
2 Carrots, peeled chopped medium to fine
2 Celery stalks chopped medium to fine
1 Yellow Onion chopped medium to fine
1 Garlic bulb, chopped fine
Some tomatoes – 3 to 4 big tomatoes or 7-8 Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes are the bomb. Period. Today I’m using a big ass can of Hunt’s Petite Diced tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are better, but don’t let a budget stop you from eating bomb ass food.
Herbs, spices, seasonings, etc. This is a pretty wide thing and subject to personal taste, but I use black pepper, red pepper, chili powder, basil, oregano, roasted chili hot sauce, roasted garlic hot sauce, and some Blair’s Death sauce. (we’re talking measures of drops here on that last one, I’m not completely ins…use drops.) I also have a couple of secret-ish ingredients, so the seasoning profile is entirely up to your tastes. I like my food to have heat and flavor.
ALCOHOL! This is actually important as hell to properly cook the tomatoes and unlock the FLAVAH! Wine will do, as will vodka or most liquors, usually around a half a cup will do.
So, get a big pot and put it on the stove on medium high heat. You can use high heat for olive oil, but for butter you want to keep the butter solids from burning, so med-hi it is. Once it’s melted a little, drop your meat in the pot and brown it. This is where the roasted chili hot sauce comes in, as well as some salt and black pepper
When the meat’s browned, take it out. Drain most of the fat from the pot, but leave enough in for the veggies.
Throw the celery, onion, and carrot mix into the pot and sautee until the onions start to turn translucent. Throw in the garlic and cook it for another minute or two to start sweating it.
Throw the meat back in and stir it up real good.
Now add the tomatoes and the alcohol. Today I’m using the last of a bottle of Captain Morgan Private Stock and a capful of honey whiskey. The roasted garlic hot sauce goes in now, as does the basil. I’m using some of my fresh basil leaves for this. Also throw in some oregano and maybe a little more salt and pepper. You’ll want to cook this for a while, until the tomatoes start to break apart and you see those little weird rolled-up tomato skin things and the liquid in the pot reduces by half. This can be ten or twenty minutes, and by now you’re probably into your second or third episode, depending on how long it took you to chop the veggies and garlic and such, and so you should just be getting sucked in. Which is good, because now it’s about to get real.
Add 2 cups of water or beef stock to the pot, three or four drops of the Jersey Death, turn it down to low, throw a lid on it, and settle in for some madcap hijinx. About twice every episode or so, you’ll want to go check on the sauce, stir it, and every so often add in another two cups of liquid to keep it from burning. Be careful if you’re using beef broth, it may oversalt or overpower the sauce if you use too much.
Repeat this last step…for a minimum of 3 hours. That’s right. 3 hours. The longer the better. If you have someone you can trust to tend it, you could even cook it overnight.
I have decided to watch Season 1 of the Ventures because it’s been a while since I’ve marathon-watched something, and I hate to start halfway through stuff sometimes. I’m also probably going to skip around simply because, well, I started the cooking part of this a long time ago, and have spent most of the time since doing this thing right here.
Also the plumber stopped by to take a look at our shower head, but since the nice ladies in the apartment next door don’t have heat that works, we shooed him over there to take care of that first.
Has it been three hours? You sure? Okay, now we gets to the next bit. Now that you have this amazing sauce, what do you put it on if not spaghetti? The Answer: A lot of other kinds of pasta. Tartafelle is fairly traditional, but fettuccine, ziti, lasagna, penne…wide flat noodles, tubular pastas, those are the ones that hold sauces well. I personally prefer penne rigate and a nice decent coating of some shredded parmesan, but the cheese possibilities are endless.
And now you eat yourself into a delicious meat coma.
WARNING: This recipe may cause the itis. Do not operate heavy machinery or drive immediately after eating this food. Sit your ass on the couch and laugh at some more Venture Brothers.
As for me, I’ve gotta go get some pasta started.